Dear friends and family, I am so sorry it has been so long since you last heard from me. It has been a crazy couple of months. I will attempt to bring you upto speed with this blog and then add a couple of videos later.
It has been a challenging time. Lots of forms and paperwork to get teacher registration and other necessary documentation finished. I finally have my "E" number which allows me to relief teach. My first relief teaching job was at Greenwood College (senior high school). The significance of this is that Greenwood senior high school was the first school I ever taught at when I graduated. After this I joined the "flying squad". This sounds rather cool and it's a group of teachers that fly out to remote schools to do between a week and a month of teaching at a time. I joined on a Tuesday and on Wednesday afternoon I received a call asking if i could go out to a "Wheat-belt" school, Wagin Community High School. Then after that If I could head out to Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School. I had about an hour to get ready and drive the 3.5 hours to Wagin.
The "Wheat-belt" area is the agricultural area of Western Australia that is a band of area that runs from the back of Perth all the way south to Albany and East for a few hundred miles. It is mostly cleared agricultural land, wheat fields, dairy and sheep farms, dotted with small wheat-belt towns. Wagin is one of those towns. Not a lot going on that you can do on weekends, which makes it difficult for kids.
The school is quite old with no upgrades done for a long time. The classroom doors are all sliding doors that open out to a verandah. Fortunately they had heating and air conditioning.
I was in for quite a shock when I met the students. I was teaching Math and Science to yrs 8,9,and 10. The students have had three Principals over the last two years, about 3 or 4 deputies over the past year and about 5 or 6 relief teachers over the last term. It was difficult to build continuity and routine. Half of each class were kids who have had some sort of trauma in their lives. The fact that they showed up at school at all showed how much school was a kind of oasis for them. However, it was difficult for them to bring their behaviour into alignment with this. I had kids outside the classroom opening the door and creating havoc outside the doorway, as well as kids creating havoc inside the classroom. Kids would come and go, and the swearing was constant. I was not ready for this. I was here for a week and a half, and my main goal was to bring everybody to the same place as the students were all over the place as to their work and having so many relief teachers. I was able to do this as well as doing a couple of assessments. I was even able to get some students who had done nothing all term to actually do some work. I still had some kids who did nothing the whole time I was there. One kid actually lost it one day and i was concerned for the safety of some of the students. Anyway the Principal and Deputy said that I had performed miracles in what I achieved in one week. I can tell you it felt like I was there for a month. I think they wanted me to come back next year to be the science teacher! I decided that I needed a break before going straight to Kalgoorlie, so came back to Perth for a few days, which allowed me to go to the Perth 4WD and camping expo!
i will make a video about my trip to Kalgoorlie, but just mention a bit here. Kalgoorlie is a famous outback Gold mining town about 600kms east of Perth. It contains the "Super Pit" gold mine which is the third largest goldmine in the world. It may soon be competing for #1. Gold was first discovered in 1893. In the past 120 years there have been over 60 million ounces of gold extracted from this area. At one time they paved the main streets with a rock called telluride which contained "fools gold". However they found out that they were the "fools" as it was discovered that the gold was in fact real and not fools gold! So they dug up all the roads and rebuilt them extracting the gold from the rocks they had made the roads from. So at one time in Kalgoorlie's history it's streets were "paved with gold"! Alan Bond (who won the Americas Cup yacht race back in 1982?), bought up all of the smaller mine leases and created the "Super Pit" which has already gone 11 years over its predicted life span and sees no end in sight.
Once again I was shocked by the kids behaviour at the school. I had a tough schedule. There were 5 periods a day (with two recesses) with classes lasting 55 mins! (way too long). I had 4 x5 period days, some with recess duty. I was teaching Maths and had to develop my own lesson plans, and had one yr 10 social studies class! I had two yr 8 classes of low ability students, and on top of that it was the last weeks of the year. The kids were out of control and would swear in the classroom and sometime at me directly. They would refuse to work and just ignore my instructions. I would place them on detention and would spend an hour after school each day entering all the data into the computer and call parents. Many times I would organize for them to attend a "Buddy class" where by they would to go another teachers class usually of another yr group. All of this required arranging and writing up on the computer.
At the end of the second week, I went to the Deputy and said I had had enough. He asked me to keep trying and he would send some human resources my way to assist. That helped a bit and i was able to last the three weeks I had agreed to. However, it took a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep up and I was exhausted by the end of it. I did try to make the most of my time there and do some touristy things. Fortunately the food at the motel where i was staying was really good, all paid for by the Education dept. One of the things that kept me going was the really good pay!
On the last day i was able to show my photos of my trips around the world and believe it or not I had rapt audiences! Even some of the worst students were front and center and paying attention. I couldn't have done this any earlier as they wouldn't have been interested.
Since being back I have applied to a couple more schools. Unfortunately my experience at these schools has put me off teaching at public schools, so I am only going to apply to private and religious schools. I am guessing that public schools in the US may be similar, but i am not willing to spend my years going into retirement filled with anxiety and emotional stress.